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Avignon, the Rhône and Provence

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7 days From £1,595 per person
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Tour idyllic Provençal villages, view Roman influences by the Rhône, and experience excellent local gastronomy while staying in the charming city of Avignon.

Operated by our sister company Great Rail Journeys

2024 Tour code: AVB24

About the tour

A destination that's inspired artists such as Vincent van Gogh, this beautiful part of France oozes history, charm and culture.

Explore Provence from the delightful papal city of Avignon and uncover the idyllic villages of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Gordes.

Take a cruise along the Rhône and learn about its influence on the sights and tastes of the area before exploring Roman Arles and the Pont du Gard.

Embark on a gourmet food tour of Avignon and a Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine tasting to discover the exceptional flavours of Provence.

Unforgettable Experiences

Experience gastronomic Avignon
Experience gastronomic Avignon
Stay in this historic city that was once home to Popes in the Middle Ages, where a knowledgeable guide takes us on a tour of the city’s foodie secrets as we sample delicious local delicacies. We also visit a local nougaterie to taste the popular confectionary.
Savour a Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine tasting
Savour a Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine tasting
We enjoy a tasting of three varieties of Châteauneuf-du-Pape – one of the most coveted wines in the world – on a visit to a cellier, where we learn about the wine’s lauded heritage and how its character is a reflection of the region.
Enjoy a tranquil Rhône cruise to artistic Arles
Enjoy a tranquil Rhône cruise to artistic Arles
Embark on a relaxing cruise down the river to Arles, an ancient city with UNESCO-listed Roman remains and the former home of famed artist Vincent van Gogh.
Explore idyllic Provençal towns and villages
Explore idyllic Provençal towns and villages
Travel to utterly charming locations across Provence, including the hidden gem of Uzès, the village of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue that is dubbed the ‘Venice of Provence’, and the picture-perfect hilltop settlement of Gordes.
Uncover Roman Provence
Uncover Roman Provence
Visit one of France’s most recognised landmarks, the Pont du Gard – a three-tiered aqueduct from the first-century AD still in incredible condition that once helped transport water more than 30 miles from Uzès to Nîmes.

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - London to Avignon: Through France to Provence

The group gathers at London St Pancras before boarding the Eurostar to Paris, on which we have a light meal in Standard Premier Class. In Paris, we change to First Class seats on the high-speed TGV, arriving in the historic Provençal city of Avignon in the early evening having weaved through the verdant fields and hills alongside the expansive Rhône from Lyon. Lying just off the city's main square near the Palais des Papes, our hotel retains the frontage of the attractive 19th-century house it was converted from. Once checked in, we head out to a local restaurant with a lovely wisteria-shaded courtyard for a dinner of traditional French food.

Includes
  • Dinner
  • Eurostar light meal
Day 2 - The art and history of Arles

In late morning, we board a boat for a relaxing cruise down the Rhône, enjoying lunch as we sail serenely through picturesque landscapes and past the impressive château at Tarascon that stands squarely on the riverbank. Arriving in Arles, we have free time to explore this historic town at leisure. Blending Roman and medieval architecture, the narrow lanes of Arles are bursting with history, from the UNESCO-listed Roman arena that would have seated 20,000 people, to its evocative Place de la République with its obelisk and Romanesque cathedral.

The legacy of one of Arles' most famous residents, artist Vincent van Gogh, is visible in many parts of the old town. The post-impressionist lived in and painted many parts of Arles and his work is celebrated at the Van Gogh Foundation. Alternatively, visit the Place du Forum and bask in the scene which inspired his renowned piece 'Café Terrace at Night'. This quaint tree-covered square has many places in which to eat or savour a drink before catching the train back to Avignon.

Please note: On our departures from October, groups will travel by rail directly to Arles where you will have a full day to explore independently with a tourist pass included.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Day 3 - Avignon: The City of Popes

After a leisurely breakfast, we are joined by an expert guide who takes us on a walking tour of the sights of Avignon. Along the way, we see the 12th-century Pont St Bénezet, the bridge featured in popular children's song 'Sur le Pont d'Avignon'. All but four of its arches were washed away by a devastating flood in 1668, and the surviving arches are today an iconic symbol of the city. We also stop by the Palais des Papes (the Papal Palace), which was the seat of the papacy during the 14th century after Pope Clement V escaped chaotic Rome and moved his court to Avignon. Forming the largest medieval Gothic palace in Europe, this incredible palace dominates the skyline in a manner befitting its importance.

With the rest of the day free to explore independently, you could stroll through the city's tree-lined avenues or wander through the leafy Jardin des Doms, with great views of the Rhône and surrounding countryside. Avignon has an abundance of laidback squares onto which the lively terraces of restaurants and bars spill out under the shade of stately plane trees. One such square is the Place de l'Horloge, near our hotel. A little further afield are the Place des Corps Saints and Place Pie, all offering an enticing selection of places to eat or drink.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 4 – The beautiful villages of Provence

This morning, we visit a nougaterie to sample the regional delicacy of nougat. Breathe in the scent of honey and toasted almonds as we tour the manufacturing workshop, learning about the history of this much-loved local sweet before sampling some ourselves.

Arriving in the beautiful Provençal village of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue at lunchtime, we have time at leisure to explore the 'Venice of Provence'. With the gently babbling Sorgue river encircling and criss-crossing a tightly knit cluster of sun-baked pastel-coloured buildings, this island village is an incredible place to explore. Known also as the 'antiques capital of Provence', there are many stalls and shops dotted around the town, while the interior of the 13th-century baroque Church of Notre-Dame-des-Anges is exceptional, with large canvasses, wall decorations, carved woodwork and a 50-foot altarpiece bedecked in gold.

Our next stop on this jaunt through some of Provence's most picturesque locations is Gordes. Built on the foothills of the Vaucluse mountains, this is one of the most well-known hilltop villages in the region. Gordes looks incredible from the approach as dusty stone buildings decorate the verdant hill. Once inside, we are greeted by a labyrinth of beautiful cobblestone alleys, or 'calades', flanked by rustic buildings that evoke a bygone time. At the heart of the village is its 10th-century château that was renovated during the Renaissance. We have free time in Gordes to wander through its delightful streets and enjoy remarkable views of both the valley below and the Luberon mountains in the distance, before returning to Avignon in the early evening.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 5 - A gastronomic tour of Avignon

Like many French cities, Avignon has a vibrant culinary scene. This morning, we join a knowledgeable guide who shows us round the places only a local would know as we learn to understand Avignon through its cuisine. We are introduced to local producers before visiting many of the different stalls at the city's renowned food market, Les Halles. On this tasty tour, we sample local olives and delicacies such as sacristain (an almond pastry), Camargue salt toffee, and callison (soft, melon-flavoured sweets).

The afternoon provides time to explore independently. Enter the Palais des Papes for a tour of this spectacular palace, its fabulous decorations and the pontifical gardens. For a peaceful stroll, maybe head to the pretty cobblestone street of Rue des Teinturiers (Street of Dyers) with its graceful stream and waterwheels. When the time is right, head to one of Avignon's beautiful squares for a meal and perhaps a glass of splendid local wine.

Please Note - For departure 08/06/2024 Days 5 and 6 have swapped around with your final evening meal staying on Day 6.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 6 - The Pont du Gard and Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine tasting

This morning we spend time viewing a remarkable and beautiful piece of Roman engineering: the Pont du Gard. Constructed in the first century AD and one of France's most recognised landmarks, this three-tiered bridge was part of the aqueduct used to transport water on a 30-mile journey from springs to the important Roman city of Nîmes. Standing 160ft over the gentle Gardon river, a tributary of the Rhône, the Pont du Gard and its limestone arches are UNESCO-listed due in part to the exceptional state of preservation. As one of the greatest remaining structures of the Roman Empire, it is considered an architectural and artistic masterpiece and, at nearly 2,000 years old, people are still permitted to walk across it.

The water that fed the Pont du Gard came from springs near to Uzès, and it is on to this gorgeous medieval town we move. Dominated by a château the town is also protected by its three towers, including the 11th-century Tour Fenestrelle. The style of this campanile tower attached to the Cathédrale Saint-Théodorit d'Uzès has led many people to compare it to a smaller version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In fact, the town is known as the 'French Tuscany'. With a feel of genuine authenticity to the characterful and clean streets of Uzès' charming centre surrounded by graceful stone buildings, we have two hours to wander independently and may opt to enjoy a spot of lunch in a square scattered with plane trees.

This afternoon is a highlight of the holiday as we get to learn more about one of the most celebrated wines in the world. Attending a cellier, we enjoy a presentation and tasting of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. After hearing about the wine's incredible heritage and the importance of the Rhône to the region's terroir, we are then treated to a tasting of three varieties of delicious Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine.

We return to Avignon in good time to head out for a three-course dinner together at a local restaurant.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7 - Homeward bound

After our final breakfast as a group, we travel to the railway station to board the TGV in First Class for our journey to Paris. Following the route of the Rhône back to Lyon, we can begin to reflect on our excellent holiday and how the river has played such an important role in the region throughout history. From the broken bridge at Avignon to influencing the taste of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and attracting the Romans, the significance of the Rhône can't be underestimated.

In Paris, we transfer to Standard Premier Class on the Eurostar and enjoy a light meal before arriving back at London St Pancras in the early evening and say farewell to our travelling companions with whom we have shared memories of a beautiful part of France.

Includes
  • Breakfast
  • Eurostar light meal

Additional information

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotel

Hôtel de l'Horloge, Avignon

Hôtel de l'Horloge, Avignon

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Train

Eurostar

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